2012-09-13 Vatican Radio
(Vatican Radio) – Thousands of Christians and Muslims gathered in Beirut’s “Garden of Mary” Wednesday evening to invoke the protection of Our Lady of Lebanon for Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to their country. The Pope is due to arrive in the capital on a three day visit this Friday.
If you didn’t know Pope Benedict was coming to Lebanon you might be forgiven – especially if you’re not Christian or from these parts. But once you arrive in Beirut, especially at the international airport, you can’t fail to miss the posters with close ups of the smiling pope and messages welcoming him in Arabic, French, English and Italian. Messages like “Pax vobis” the Latin for “peace be with you”. And that is the message that Pope Benedict will be bringing with him to this region, so full of hope and desire for change from the Arab Spring yet so troubled by conflict and rife with mistrust and misunderstanding between people of different ethnic groups and religious faiths.
But ever the land of contrasts, Lebanon offers a very different picture – despite lingering tensions since its 1975-1990 civil war, the country’s 18 different sects generally respect each other and enjoy similar civil rights and freedoms. Here in Beirut Wednesday night thousands turned out for another kind of demonstration: one of love and hope as Muslims joined Christians to pray and entrust to Our Lady Pope Benedict’s weekend visit. Crossing the war period’s Green Line, the site of bitter and bloody battles between them, Christians and Muslims found themselves together, praying and calling for a different future where barriers such as these will remain only vague memories.